Bromley Shelter to Stratton Mountain
October 17, 2007
LT Miles – 15.8
Total LT Miles – 231.7
Extra Miles – 1
Eric cooks breakfast in the darkness before dawn. He’s gone at first light… at least a solid half-hour before sunrise.
I pack my things and head south shortly thereafter. Town calls.
It’s a quick two miles downhill to Vermont Route 11/30 – the road that leads into Manchester Center.
I hitchhike four miles down the road, riding with a man dressed in a shirt and tie on his way to work.
He asks me about local trails in the area as I glance out the window, recognizing many places with old memories on my mind. I was in Manchester Center on September 11, 2001.
He leaves me at an interstate exchange, about a mile out of town where our paths separate.
I walk and enjoy the early morning.
A car pulls over on the shoulder in front of me. As I approach, I see the lone driver clearing things from the passenger seat, and suddenly the passenger door flies open. Even though it’s only a short distance to the center of town, the driver insists on giving me a ride.
“Do you have a trail name?” she asks.
“Bluebird,” she says, extending a hand. She hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2005.
She leaves me at the front door of the Price Chopper supermarket with a smile on my face from her bright, cheery attitude, excited for the opportunity to help a hiker on the trail.
“You made my day!” she says.
I purchase my usual resupply, supplemented by a pack of eight dogs and corresponding bread for my dinner tonight. I search out the local Friendlies chain restaurant for breakfast. They have a special called the Two-fer – two eggs, two sausage, two pancakes. I order it twice.
I stand with my thumb out for nearly a half hour for the hitch back up to the trail.
Finally I get a ride from a man who likes to day hike in the area. Upon learning that I’m from Pennsylvania, he remarks that he travels to the Gettysburg area annually… solely to purchase a case of wine from a local winery.
Spruce Peak, looking back toward Manchester Center.
I walk a featureless stretch of trail in the deep woods, fueled on coffee.
The closest I come to seeing another person appears in the form of a vacant green US Forest Service truck.
Lye Brook Wilderness
the Winhall River
It’s late in the day when I reach Stratton Pond.
Stratton is the largest body of water on the Long Trail, and one of its most popular destinations.
I’m the only person here today.
I drink two liters of water at the spring, fill up my bottles, and begin the climb up Stratton Mountain.
I race up the mountain, hoping to reach the fire tower on the summit by sunset. The physical challenge feels great, and the forest characteristically changes from maple to beech to hemlock.
With my hike coming to an end soon, I think of how a physical effort such as this would have been impossible only three weeks ago. After my final resupply today, my pack will only get lighter until the end of the trip.
The endorphin high has me feeling hardened by the trail – layers of civilization stripped away to reveal a raw product underneath. As I monitor the lowering sun, the existence of outside civilization becomes nothing but meaningless distant chatter.
James P. Taylor is said to have envisioned the Long Trail as he was waiting for the mist to clear from Stratton Mountain.
Benton Mackaye is said to have envisioned the Appalachian Trail while sitting in a tree on Stratton Mountain, during construction of The Long Trail.
Deep clouds have settled by the time I reach the summit.
There’s no sunset to be seen, and limited views to behold.
I have a fond memory of staying in a ski hut here in 2001, so I embark on a side trail to Stratton Ski Area in hope of doing so once again. The trail is a flat seven tenths of a mile along the ridge of the mountain, including a long boardwalk.
The ski summit seems to have undergone some changes in recent years. There’s a number of new, modern buildings, and I gather that they’ve become unfriendly to hikers. All the doors are locked.
I’m relieved to discover an open door at a gondola operator’s booth. It’s furnished with a radio and electric light, but I don’t use the light for fear of being discovered. Eight hot dogs boil in my pot as I prepare a feast, and play the radio. Baba O’Reilly was made for mountaintops.